NEWSMAKER: AMBASSADOR RICHARDSON
November 20, 1997
Despite the fact that the United Nations' weapons inspectors team may resume their duties in Iraq, the United States still sent six B-52 bombers to an island base in the Indian Ocean. Following a background report by Kwame Holman, Jim Lehrer speaks with U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson about the possible resolution of the Iraqi crisis.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
November 20, 1997
A background report on the Iraqi crisis.
What's the best way to deal with Iraq?
November 17, 1997
Arab perspectives on the Iraqi crisis.
November 14, 1997
Sandy Berger the National Security Adviser, discusses the Iraqi crisis.
November 13, 1997
Newsmaker interview withDeputy PM Aziz who defends his country's expulsion of U.N. weapons inspectors.
November 12, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson discusses the Security Council's vote to impose stricter sanctions on Iraq.
November 11, 1997
Four foreign policy experts debate how best to deal with Saddam Hussein.
November 10, 1997
Defense Sec. Cohen discusses the situation with Iraq.
November 6, 1997
The chief U.N. arms inspector discusses Saddam's latest moves.
November 3, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson discusses tensions between the U.S. and Iraq.
October 9, 1997
Sec. Cohen issues a stern warning to Saddam Hussein.
September 10, 1996
A discussion with two Iraq experts in the U.S..
September 4, 1996
A group of experts discuss Saddam Hussein's decision to send troops in the Kurdish Safe Haven.
Online Forum: 1996:
The plight of the Kurds in Northern Iraq.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Middle East.
JIM LEHRER: Now to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson. Mr. Ambassador, welcome.
BILL RICHARDSON, U.N. Ambassador: Thank you, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: So Saddam Hussein folded, is that what this is about?
Amb. Richardson: "I believe that Saddam Hussein blinked."
BILL RICHARDSON: I believe that Saddam Hussein blinked. What won out was the President's policy, which was full, unconditional return of UNSCOM and its inspectors, unfettered. This was the substance of the permanent five foreign ministers, mainly France, Russia, China, the U.K., and the United States. That's what seems to be emerging. The Iraqis formally submitted a letter to the Security Council reflecting the agreement. There are no conditions. The inspectors will go back to Baghdad tomorrow. Amb. Butler announced that just moments ago in the Security Council. But this crisis is not over. Iraq has a lot of rhetoric, a lot of bombast. Until we see these inspectors doing their work Saturday morning, unfettered, with Americans, doing the work that they have to do, we remain skeptical, but the Russians deserve credit. Primakov deserves credit for this initiative.
JIM LEHRER: Nothing has been promised to Iraq in exchange for this?
BILL RICHARDSON: I can assure you that there have been no quid pro quos, no carrots, no concessions from either the United States or the United Nations. This is an agreement that Russia has made with Iraq. Nobody else is bound by it. The Security Council has spoken very consistently, and in a united fashion, that what we want to see is the full, unconditional return of UNSCOM, the U-2's flying, and what I think is now needed, Jim, is to assure that the UNSCOM inspectors have the access, have the ability to do their job, because what we're talking about is a period of time--the last three weeks--when perhaps some anthrax has been developed, when the Iraqis may have hidden more weapons of mass destruction. I think the objective has been temporarily achieved if we do have UNSCOM returning, and that is we have prevented American policy, Saddam Hussein, from threatening the international community with these weapons of mass destruction.
JIM LEHRER: So if Iraq did use this past three weeks to do things like you just said, can these inspectors find out that very quickly, once they get back on the ground tomorrow?
Amb. Richardson: "The Iraqis cheated...."
BILL RICHARDSON: I believe they can. They're technical; they're competent; they're scientists; they have some work to do to regroup obviously, but the more important that new base lines be established with UNSCOM, fuller access, more access to documents, more access to move freely throughout the country. I think if you look at what UNSCOM and Amb. Butler reported to the Security Council yesterday, there's been lack of access to chemical, to biological weapons, the missiles. There's still developments going on of indigenous missile materials. The Iraqis cheated, and they continue to hide, and that has been documented by U.N. inspectors again and again, so this is a good development, but, nonetheless, we want to see some tangible results. We want to see some deeds, not just a bunch of words and letters and political statements from Iraq.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Let's say the inspectors go back in, and let's say they're still cheating. These last three weeks they did this; they did this; they do that. Do they have the power to destroy what they've done?
BILL RICHARDSON: Yes, they do. And UNSCOM has a very strong record to destroying many, many weapons of mass destruction. They have done this. That's why they think it's so important.
JIM LEHRER: They can just go in there and do it. They don't have to have any U.N.--further U.N.--
BILL RICHARDSON: No. They have that authority to destroy many of these weapons. They have to identify them and find access to them. What the Iraqis have been doing is hiding many of these weapons and denying access, and these are some changes that we need to make sure take place, so that UNSCOM, which is a U.N. agency, which is valuable to every American--and I'm getting my pitch in for the Congress to pay our U.N. bills because UNSCOM protects not just Americans but a whole region from weapons of mass destruction; that UNSCOM have the ability to do its job.
JIM LEHRER: And you have full confidence they can do it if everything is--if they're put back in there and allowed to do it tomorrow, is that right?
BILL RICHARDSON: Well, we want to see full compliance by Iraq. That remains to be seen. They've made the commitment to let the inspectors back in with the Americans. We think that's critically important. We think it's important that the Iraqis stop messing with the U-2 flights, which provide very valuable overhead data to supplement what is on the ground, but there's some ground to be made because there's been three weeks. You know, the Iraqis can develop anthrax in a few days, and we're concerned about that, but the bottom line is that the inspectors appear to be going back, but we want to see performance. We want to see this actually happen. And we will not accept any tampering with UNSCOM changing inspectors because of their nationality. We don't believe there should be any restrictions on their activities.
JIM LEHRER: What do you make of Tariq Aziz's point that we just ran in the film that the Russians agreed that the team, the inspection team, was out of balance, meaning there were too many Americans on it, is that what that's all about?
The Russian Agenda.
BILL RICHARDSON: Well, the Russians have their agenda. We respect it. We don't agree with it, about the makeup of UNSCOM. It could be that the Russians will make a proposal to change the nature of UNSCOM. We will oppose that. We think that these are decisions made and should be made by technical experts, scientific experts, United Nations Ambassador Butler. 14 percent are Americans; there are 140 employees from over 40 nations that are part of the U.N. inspection team. They are doing competent, excellent work. They have credibility. These scientists appeared before the Security Council yesterday with credible evidence, with documents, showing consistent violation by Iraq of the UNSCOM mandate, even while UNSCOM has been out.
JIM LEHRER: What did Primakov, the Russian foreign minister, say to Saddam Hussein to make this deal work?
BILL RICHARDSON: Well, I believe that Primakov had the backing of the United Nations Security Council. President Clinton had called President Yeltsin and was urging any country like Russia, like France, Arab countries that have leverage with Saddam Hussein to tell him, look, you have to back off or else, and I think that was Primakov's message. We don't know of any other side agreements that were made. We don't believe there were any quid pro quos, any concessions. Primakov has said that Tariq Aziz has said this, so, again, what is critical now is that UNSCOM get back to work; that Iraq comply with all Security Council resolutions. You know, there are others, Jim, there are other resolutions that deal with the Kuwait prisoners of war, with Kuwaiti property, with the treatment of Saddam Hussein's own citizens. He gases the Kurds. He's gassed many of his own people. We're talking about compliance with Security Council resolutions.
JIM LEHRER: Another thing that Iraq is very much interested in, and the Russians have said they will try to help them in accomplishing this, is to lessen the economic embargo, the oil embargo and the economic embargo on Iraq. Give us a feel for where that stands right now from the U.S. point of view.
The economic embargo.
BILL RICHARDSON: Well, Jim, the United States is the author of what is called 986, an oil for food resolution that allows Iraq to get food and medicine in exchange for the sale of oil. We have pushed for that. We don't have any quarrel with the Iraqi people. We have pushed this humanitarian assistance, and we have said weeks ago when I voted on the Security Council resolution that we're willing to look at improving the delivery of humanitarian goods to Iraq. This is something that the Security Council has wanted to look at, but again there have been no quid pro quos for Iraq complying with what's called 1137, which is the resolution that deals with the return of UNSCOM fully and unconditionally.
JIM LEHRER: Can you give us any feel for a time frame here about how long it might be before these inspectors can report back and say, hey, this is what they've been doing, this is what we found, this is what they're not doing, whatever?
BILL RICHARDSON: Well, I think it's going to take some continuous monitoring of this issue. This is why you can't say the crisis is over, the issue is over. We're going to be concerned that Iraq come clean with full data regarding their nuclear, their missile files, their chemical, biological files, anthrax, poison gas, VX, a lot of that is happening. This is a scientific decision, Jim. They're going to have to regroup. There's been--
JIM LEHRER: A matter of weeks, though, right, a matter of months maybe?
BILL RICHARDSON: It's going to require continued oversight. This is why you can't say the crisis, the problem is over. Saddam Hussein and Iraq require constant overnight by the international community. This is why we shouldn't try to prejudice the scientific and technical expertise and proud and good record of UNSCOM, the U.N. inspection team.
JIM LEHRER: You've been dealing with this thing day and night here for three weeks. You say the crisis isn't over, but the immediate crisis is over, is it not?
BILL RICHARDSON: Well, Jim, again, Iraq has made a lot of promises. They've said a lot of things. Until the inspectors fly into Iraq, do their job, they're not harassed by Iraqi border guards or others that say Americans can't come in, you can't go here, you can't go there, which they have done, until that happens, this crisis is not over, and there has to be full compliance with a number of other Security Council resolutions that we have passed in the last few days that deal with Iraqis' violations on a lot of these issues that deal with their weapons of mass destruction.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.
BILL RICHARDSON: Thank you, Jim.